Volunteering as a career strategy

Priscilla Lamwaka

What you need to know:

Opportunities: Priscilla Lamwaka did not necessarily envision volunteering after finishing school but while there she has gained new skills and experience and found career growth opportunities.

Often when one looks at a job advert, they meet all the requirements except for the experience. This is the story that many fresh graduates tell with frustration. However, many never give thought to how to accumulate the missing ingredient; experience. When Priscilla Lamwaka finished her degree in Leisure and Hospitality Management from Makerere University Business School (MUBS), the journey to search for profitable employment started.

“I had dropped application letters at hotels with the hope of getting an opportunity to work with one of them. An opportunity then came at Mestil Hotel because of my good command of French. The officer in-charge of the Food and Beverages section was French. Unfortunately, he returned to his country and the job did not materialise. After that, I did not succeed in any other pursuit,” Lamwaka shares.

Failure at the edge of a breakthrough is what Lamwaka would call her experience. However, now was not time to throw in the towel.

“During my time at university, I decided to take on leadership roles as a Guild Representative Councillor (GRC). While in leadership, I made use of all opportunities that came my way. For example, I networked and talked to students and people from various offices. With that, my leadership and resilience skills were shaped,” she says.

With no job at hand, Lamwaka walked into the office of the MUBS Publications Unit where Ms Erina Najjingo was in charge.

“I shared that I had finished my university studies, awaiting graduation but wanted to acquire new skills,” she says.

As a student there, Lamwaka had seen newsletters distributed in school during different activities and was drawn to the editorial column where the editor writes educational articles,” she says.

On sharing about her desire to join the team, the first question was whether Lamwaka had ever written before.

“I was honest that it would be my first time if given the opportunity. I also opened up about my willingness to learn. By the look on her face, she was amazed and asked me to return the next morning at 8am.

Lamwaka was thrilled and overjoyed that by 7:30am, she was waiting at the office. That marked the beginning of her volunteering journey.

Settling into the new life trajectory, Lamwaka made it her mission to learn whatever there was to get the job done. One of her first tasks was to create social media accounts for the publications unit. That would enable the unit have independent visibility, since previously, all units under the public relations office sent their information to the main page.

Najjingo said the accounts would also help them put the newsletter online because with Covid-19 and staff not on ground, that would be an amazing way to continue sharing information. “I ably created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for the unit,” she shares.

Lamwaka also started creating links of the newsletter to share online. That way, people could access the newsletter online, irrespective of their location. 

With avenues to share more information, Lamwaka was tasked to cover all university events, be it a class or stakeholder event amid some challenges.

“Najjingo told me to make use of the available resources. My phone was what was available then, thus I started reporting about all events on campus,” she shares.

The next assignment was to learn designing skills in preparation to design the January newsletter.

“I am thankful that she gave me the basics before tasking me to build on that in order to create a newsletter. It was a bumpy road, being the first time I was interfacing with the software (Adobe InDesign),” she shares.

It was also scary and tedious but she went to YouTube to gain knowledge to ably work with the existing template. In order to meet her deadline, Lamwaka dedicated every evening to learning how to design and the journey started with flyers, brochures then later went to the newsletter. With time, she learnt how to package and export.  “Whenever I made something, I shared it with her and got her comments as well as advice to help me do better. Along the journey, I also sought help from a staff member in the e-learning section, Juma Lubega, who helped me perfect my designing. All this while, what kept me going was the inner drive that I could learn and do better,” she intimates.

Later, Lamwaka successfully designed the newsletter whose publication coincided with the time she was graduating, so it was double celebration. After learning Adobe InDesign, Lamwaka moved on to learn about Illustrator. Currently, she is learning how to edit using Adobe Premium Pro.

Two months later a lockdown was instituted, making job-hunting almost impossible. Lamwaka is thankful that she had something to occupy her, working on her laptop to produce one newsletter after another.

It was while here that she heard about the opportunity that her former department needed a teaching assistant.

“While in school, I had had the opportunity of being the first French Club vice president. I had joined the French class because my programme required me to learn a foreign language, so, I chose French. Our patron then and now head of department, Dr Milburga Atcero, asked for students who would wish to take on leadership and form a club. I volunteered as vice president,” she shares.

At the time of volunteering, Lamwaka had not given the French department a thought because she looked at her French level as inferior to the needs of teaching staff.

The teaching assistant gap was created because the department often sponsors students for Masters and PhD programmes abroad. Lamwaka not only had the skill but met the criteria of having a first class degree and was on ground to learn of the opportunity.

Tips for success

 “During my time as a volunteer, I was recognised and awarded a certificate for being the most hardworking staff in the unit.”


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